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Sonic Hedgehog

is the name of a chemical, discussed by Real Scientists, And Everything. Thanks to Slate's Explainer for the pointer.

Sanjay Krishnaswamy (mail):
Yeah, well, fruit fly genes are named in a way that reminds one of how the mutant looks. You get, for example, "shaker" for a gene who's mutants quiver uncontrollably, etc. Can lead to some linguistic problems (e.g. the gene "fushi tarazu"). So there was already a gene called "hedgehog," and somebody decided to get clever.
5.30.2006 8:38pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

Yeah, well, fruit fly genes are named in a way that reminds one of how the mutant looks. You get, for example, "shaker" for a gene who's mutants quiver uncontrollably, etc. Can lead to some linguistic problems (e.g. the gene "fushi tarazu"). So there was already a gene called "hedgehog," and somebody decided to get clever.


The father of the girl I'm dating is the researcher who found/named the "7up" gene in fruit flies.
5.30.2006 9:01pm
Jim Hu:
Actually, I believe in this case it was the vertebrate folks who got cute. Sonic hedgehog (shh) is a homolog of hedgehog (hh), but I think there is no sonic hedgehog in flies.

http://www.flybase.org/ shows the mouse and zebrafish versions.
5.30.2006 9:29pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
Sonic hedgehog, according to Neuroscience, 2nd edition, Dale Purves, et al, editors, p. 475, is a "peptide hormone essential for neural induction". It is, I think, active in early brain development, and appears to regulate the expression of one or more genes, although I'm far from an expert in this field.
5.30.2006 9:57pm
SFresident (mail):
Jim is right. In fact, three labs were collaborating on shh, and published back-to-back-to-back papers at the end of the final 1993 issue of Cell (a highly prestigious journal for biology). The only reference to the origin of the name is in the Riddle paper, where they said shh was named "after the Sega computer game cartoon character." The Riddle paper focused on the chicken version, the Echelard paper on the 3 mouse versions (Desert Hedgehog and Indian Hedgehog are the others), and the Krauss paper on the zebrafish version.

Sonic hedgehog mediates the polarizing activity of the ZPA
RD Riddle, RL Johnson, E Laufer, and C Tabin, Cell 75:1401-16 (1993)

Sonic hedgehog, a member of a family of putative signaling molecules, is implicated in the regulation of CNS polarity
Y Echelard, DJ Epstein, B St-Jacques, L Shen, J Mohler, JA McMahon, and P McMahon, Cell 75:1417-30 (1993)

A functionally conserved homolog of the Drosophila segment polarity gene hh is expressed in tissues with polarizing activity in zebrafish embryos
S Krauss, JP Concordet, and PW Ingham, Cell 75:1431-44
5.30.2006 10:13pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
As I understand Sonic is one of the major compounds that helps the embryo diffrentiate into various organs/body parts. I've always loved the name but I'm a bit confused why there is a post here that just states that this compound exists.
5.30.2006 10:18pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Jeez, dude, 'cause it's named Sonic Hedgehog. What more do I need?
5.30.2006 10:32pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
I'm so far out of it that it wasn't for several years after I took the class that used the Purves book that I found out that Sonic Hedgehog was an animated character. That's what I get for being an 80s (in my case, 1780s) kind of guy.
5.31.2006 12:09am
Nick P:
I suppose proteins are chemicals, but that's kind of a vague way to refer to them.

There was recently a suggestion (in, umm, Nature, I think) that geneticists should refrain from giving mammalian genes quirky names. The idea is that it can be distressing for cancer patients or the parents of a baby with birth defects to be told that the problem is due to mutation of "sonic hedgehog" or "pokemon." Yes, the latter was a proposed gene name. OMIM prefers to refer to it as ZBTB7.
5.31.2006 11:55am
Splunge (mail):
Jeez, dude, 'cause it's named Sonic Hedgehog. What more do I need?

Well, the physicists have been doing this for decades, e.g. the Standard Model's fundamental particles are quarks of different "flavor" (up, down, strange, charmed, top and bottom) and "color" (red, green, blue) held together by gluons, ha ha, a process described by the theory of quantum chromodynamics. Then there were MAssive Cometary Halo Objects (MACHOs) and Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) as the two leading dark matter candidates, not to mention the more recent penguin physics.

The chemists contribute curious chloride, one name for curium trichloride. Unsaturated hydrocarbons (compounds of carbon and hydrogen) always have the suffix -ane, as in methane, butane and octane, so certain unusually-shaped hydrocarbons have been named basketane and propellane. Among the fenestranes, the structurally simplest windowpane (C9H12) has not yet been synthesized, but a less-strained derivative broken windowpane (C8H12) has. Also still unsynthesized are any of the dogcollaranes which have the shape of...well, it's obvious. Then there's the anticoagulant factor in vampire bat saliva named draculin. Supposedly when Vitamin C was isolated the discoverer proposed the name ignose because much was unknown about it, although it was known to be a sugar (sugars such as glucose, lactose or sucrose end in -ose). When the journal editor balked, the suggestion of godnose was then made, but ultimately turned down as well.

Let's not even talk about the antics of the zoologists, e.g. the three species of spiders originally placed in genus Nops which were later assigned to three new genera named Notnops, Taintnops and Tisentnops, or the species of brown moth named Eubetia bigaulae (pronounced "you betcha by golly") or the wasp species Heerz lukenatcha.

Or the computer programmers, who designed certain compilers to fill uninitialized allocated memory with 3735928559, so that when examined by a debugger, which prints numbers in hexadecimal (base-16) its hex value of DEADBEEF would, er, stand out.
5.31.2006 4:55pm